Monday, October 26, 2009

Dreaming about people from the other side

For several weeks now, I have been dreaming about people I have known who have already passed on. I have dreamed about my dear mother and father, my wife, some classmates, even Consuelo “Ateng” Osorio and Vincent Benjamin Kua, Jr.

Since the last time I talked to Ateng Osorio and Vincent Kua was during the late 70s, I figured I should write something about them to remember them.

When I was a kid, I have always been critical about every movie I watched. I looked for the errors in them, I noticed bad acting when I see one, and even became quite aware when the film was awfully directed. At age 8 in 1968, during the summer vacation, I went home to our house (I was staying in my grandpa’s ranch in Bicol and going to school there). I thought I was ready to write a movie. Therefore, when I went home for the summer in the city, I asked our family driver to take me to the ABS-CBN studios on Bohol Avenue to find out how to apply as a writer. At the gate, the guard asked the driver who he was looking for. The driver said the TV director of the program being taped that time. The guard let the car in. Once inside the building, I asked the receptionist who was the TV writer present that day and she mentioned the name: Consuelo Osorio, also known as Ateng Osorio. She told me which studio she was working that time and I proceeded to find her. Unfortunately, upon entering the TV barn, a production assistant told me that she actually went to the cafeteria to have coffee. So I went to the cafeteria and tried to find her. I asked the person at the till to point out to me Miss Osorio, and she did. She was seated at a table, smoking, talking to another lady, and both of them, I noticed, were looking at me.

I approached them and introduced myself. She gave me a handshake and introduced the other lady: “She’s Mitos Villareal, our director.”

After shaking Miss Villareal’s hand, I didn’t hesitate to tell them that I was there because I want to become a writer for TV and the movies. They both smiled.

“You’re a bit too young to work as a writer,” Ateng told me. “Besides, you look more like an actor than a writer! We immediately noticed you the moment you entered this room. You are unusually fair. You are even fairer than Jeanne Young. Leave your phone number with me, I’ll find something and I’ll give you a call.”

That’s exactly what I did.

A scene from Malvarosa. Written by Clodualdo del Mundo, Screenplay by Consuelo Padilla Osorio. Asia's Best Picture, starring Charito Solis. (Photo from Kabayan Central).

After two days, Ateng called: “Something came up. Come to the TV station and I’ll discuss something with you. Is it possible to talk to your mother?”

My mom and dad were away that day and my older brother talked to her. Afterwards, he volunteered to drive me to the TV station.

Once we got to the station, Ateng handed me a piece of paper and told me to read it quietly, then aloud with feeling. I did. She said: “I’m impressed. You delivered the lines perfectly. You will be playing Helen Gamboa’s little brother in Bang-Shang-A-Lang”

“Bang-shang-a-lang? Is that the title of the movie? It sounds stupid!”

My brother laughed and so did Ateng.

“It is stupid because it is full of dancing and singing. It’s lots of fun.”

“I don’t like to be an actor,” I told her. “Besides, I don’t dance. I can sing, but I don’t want to sing. I want to be a writer.”

“Okay, then you have to wait a few more years for that. Maybe after high school, see me and by then maybe you can be a writer.”

So I went home that day disappointed. Six years quickly went by.

At age 14, I’ve met a komiks writer-editor named Robert Bornay. I was on my first year university, and I told Robert that I can write better stories than other komiks writers. He laughed. Maybe because he believed what I said, or maybe he thought that I was just a cocky teenager. Anyway, whatever it was, Bert handed me a script written by Mars Ravelo and told me to study the format and write something. But it was summer time again and there were too many activities here and there, and I procrastinated. I didn’t write anything. One night, Bert came to our house, a surprise visit. He took with him Tony Tenorio, Orlando Nadres and Deo Fajardo Jr. Bert asked me about my script. I was really embarrassed and promised the visitors that I will write a script. Orlando Nadres, on the other hand, asked me if I want to be on the cover of Sixteen Magazine, a komiks he was editing – an idea that Deo Fajardo seconded. I told them I am a very shy guy, so thanks but no thanks.

Blueboy was Bert Bornay's well-loved nobela by teenagers in the late 60s. It was published in Teenagers Songs & Shows komiks/magazine. Filmed by Joy Productions starring Fred Cortez Jr as Joey and Dorothy Joy as Loretta. First Directorial work of Elwood Perez.

The following week, I sat down and wrote my first komiks script. It was about the called and the chosen. A story of an aspirant nun whose fervent desire to become a full-fledged nun encountered some problems. Divine intervention? Perhaps not her true vocation?

Tony Tenorio approved the story and he introduced me to another newcomer writer/illustrator named Vincent Benjamin Kua. My first story, was Vincent’s first komiks drawing. I was also heavy into drawing and my favorite illustrator was Stan Drake. It turned out that it was also Vincent’s favorite.

It was then that Mr. Tenorio proposed to me and Vincent to work as editors in Atlas. I was in first year university and I was worried it might affect my studies, so I had to turnn down the offer. Vincent was more gung-ho to write and to draw his own komiks stories and he said no as well.

The very first komiks story I've written for Atlas in late 1974 and came out early 1975. This was Vincen'ts first published drawing.

Vincent drew a few scripts of mine but never drew other writers’ work in Atlas. He concentrated on his own “Katha’t Guhit.” What really struck me about him was that, he tended to question everything about our existence in this planet. And I would usually tell him: “Just look up and look at the vastness of the evening sky. There are billions of blinking stars out there. Why are they there? Vincent, there are things in this world that we should rather not ask why they’re there. They’re just part of our own existence. Don’t go crazy knowing the reasons for everything.”

Then I would quote Blaise Pascal’s famous: “The heart has its reason, which reason cannot know!” that sometimes he would say it with me in unison and we’d end up blurting out laughing.

And then one day, I told him: “You must just believe in Descarte’s mountains without a valley. That’s something our mind cannot grasp, but which our hearts utterly understand. Then, you will have peace within you.”

But, he continued to question things that it became a standard joke greeting from me every time we would see each other in Atlas: “What’s our question for today, Vincent? Are we going to discuss the Alpha and the Omega of the universe?”

Once, Tony Tenorio overheard me joking to Vincent and he thought we were serious: “Huh! Are you guys planning to co-write a mind-boggling nobela? Just give me the synopsis as soon as you finish it.”

Vincent and I started laughing and Tony was so puzzled and figured out what was going on and he just said: “You guys turn crazy every time you’re both here in my office.”

“Tony, in Psychology this type of illness is called Folly, also known as SHARED INSANITY! Only one person has the problem, yet it can influence other people around him to mysteriously be afflicted with temporary insanity!” I joked.

“Then who’s the real mentally ill?”

Vincent and I both pointed at each other. Then the three of us all laughed.

I continued writing scripts for Atlas publications while I was studying in university.

One weekend, our Mass Comm Association had a tour of ABS-CBN. It was there in the TV barn that Mrs. Osorio and I have seen each other again after six years.

“Mrs. Osorio!” I said as soon as I saw her.

“You look very familiar,” she said.

“Oh, I was the 8-year old boy you said – who was fairer than Jeanne Young six years ago!”

Ateng Osorio laughed. “And you’re still fairer than Jeanne Young even now! Now you’re here to become a writer, aren’t you?”

“Actually, we’re just having a class tour of the station.”

“Well, perfect timing. I need someone your age. I am auditioning today and tomorrow for new talents for BBC Channel 2. Since I already know that you can do it, you’re in. I need you to come for taping on Saturday night. Come with me and I’ll give you the script.”

I wanted to say no, but for some reason, I couldn’t. Besides, this lady was super nice and I didn’t want to say no to her. So I went with her and we proceeded to the office and the producer of the show handed me a blue mimeographed script. It says:

PROGRAM: Dulambuhay ni Rosa Vilma
WRITER: O.B. Pangilinan
MAINSTAY: Vilma Santos

To make the long story short, I ended up appearing with Vilma Santos and Walter Navarro. I played Walter’s younger brother in that episode. Thank God all my scenes were take one. And after the show aired, all my friends teased me non-stop about it. Ateng Osorio was directing films that time as well and she wanted to cast me in them but I begged off. I finally told her that acting is not what I wanted to do. I want to write. She then said: “I’m committed for seven months to direct movies which I have already written myself. After they are all finished, we’ll discuss a movie I will be directing for Barangay Pictures. I have a storyline. You will write the screenplay.”

I was delighted.

But, after three months went by, in mid-1975, BBC Channel 2 phoned me. Marcial Sanson, the big boss of programming that time, told me that he read some of my komiks scrpts and he liked them a lot and now he offered me to write for Alma Moreno’s TV show, Alindog. I didn’t hesitate and this was how I began my TV writing adventure in the Philippines.

Scripts in the 1970s were typewritten by the writer. Then the network would copy it and print them en masse using the very low tech called MIMEOGRAPH. They were usually done in blue, like this sample here.

I didn’t have time anymore to write a screenplay for Ateng Osorio, but she understood that I was having a hectic schedule writing for several TV dramas. We remained friends (it was like having your grandma around while working in showbiz). And definitely, for me, she was one of the most memorable persons in RP showbiz.

And Vincent? His questioning about things never ended. He was still the same sensitive guy who was easily hurt especially when people act unkindly. He tended to brood about it for sometime. I guess he wanted this world to be a perfect place. I know it was an impossible dream. But, I can’t blame him. This planet would have been really a perfect place to live in if only human beings were perfect.

I’m sure Vincent is now in a perfect place where he has found all the answers to his questions. And Ateng must be mingling with so many RP showbiz souls now also enjoying eternal peace, perhaps, somewhere where the sky and earth meet.